Developers! Developers! Developers! Steve Ballmer's favourite sweat-laden catchcry is a reminder that all those great apps we spend so much time using on our phones and PCs are made by someone, somewhere. Developers Cubed looks to get a behind the scenes look at some of Australia's up and coming development scene. This week, we speak to Russell Ivanovic from Shifty Jelly, the company behind probably the best weather app on the market today, Pocket Weather AU.
Who are you and where do you work? We are Shifty Jelly. We're made up of two full-time developers (Russell Ivanovic, Philip Simpson) and two part-time designers (Nathan Swan, Simon Sams). We work out of Sunny Adelaide.
Why do we know you? What have you created? About two years ago we made 'Pocket Weather AU' for the iPhone, which has been in the top 100 paid iPhone apps in Australia ever since. More recently we've been trying to score some runs outside of the Weather category with our latest app 'Pocket Casts'.
What platforms do you develop for? We used to be iOS exclusively, but just recently we've dipped our toe in the Android Waters.
What are you working on right now? Right now it feels like we're working on a million things. We have updates for all of our current applications (like a much needed Retina upgrade of Pocket Weather AU) as well as updates to our latest app Pocket Casts. We're also experimenting with Android development by moving Pocket Weather to Android.
How did you get into development? We've both been developers for 10 years now. It was the first thing we did out of university. We worked for other people for 8 years doing Enterprise Java development mainly, until one day we decided to create an iOS app from our couches. We never really expected to go out on our own, we just wanted Aussie weather on our phones.
What do you think about the rise and rise of App Stores? How has it influenced your titles? We wouldn't be here without App Stores. There are negatives, but the positive side of easy distribution, minimal overheads and worldwide exposure easily outweigh them. As a consumer it seems like a huge plus as well. We don't buy all the hippie arguments about App Stores being walled gardens, our toasters are neither open nor free, and we like them all the same because they make damn fine toast.
Pocket Weather AU was an overnight success thanks to an App Store that only had 300 titles at the time. Since then we've struggled to get our new applications to the same level of exposure.
What's your favourite app that you didn't create? Russell has a man-crush on Reeder, Philip on WhatsApp and Nathan Convert Bot. Simon can't bring himself to like anything we haven't created ;)
What phone do you use? Why? We all use iPhone 4's. Many Android phones have tried, unsuccessfully, to woo us but so far none have the fit & finish of the iPhone 4, and iOS. Android has certainly come a long way, and there are some things about it we prefer, but we just don't feel that the OS or hardware build quality are quite there yet. They are damn close though. As developers we prefer the freedom you get on Android to do whatever you want, but we don't trust other developers and their apps to behave on our phones, which is why we prefer the stance Apple takes on multi-tasking, etc.
What advice do you have for budding Aussie developers out there? Having the most brilliant, innovative and awesome idea is only 0.5% of the work. You have to build, execute and market. We'd say actually building it is still only 50% of the way there. The most brilliant of apps are nothing without marketing and people who notice them. In a crowded App Store, there's no real way to stand out except to either get extremely lucky or to get out there and beat your drum. Having money to do marketing also helps.
On a more personal level, don't be put off by how hard it seems to be to make a great app, build a team of people around you who are passionate, and love what they do. Build apps you want to use, not apps you think fill some marketing niche. Go out and be great, as Merlin Mann says "What can't you ship?".
Are you an Australian Developer? Want to be a part of Developer Cubed? Send me an email: [email protected]